Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tour Divide 2012

A friend, Sean Rainsford, from New Zealand with diabetes had ridden the Tour Divide (TD) as a two year tour a few years ago and stopped by our house. That put the idea in my head originally. When I rode the Colorado trail race last summer (2011) and got to know Eszter H better, she was talking of racing the TD. Jefe Branam and Ethan Passant from the valley had both done it that summer as well and as expected did well. I thought yeah I don't think that is in the cards. It seemed kind of silly to blast through so much country. I would love to do it as a slow tour with Julian and Lila when they are older. And I don't think Anne would go for it as she said many times, "I wouldn't go for it!" And that's where it stood for a few months. It grew on me though. If I was ever going to do it as a race I couldn't wait around. I am pushing the years after all, or "getting on" as the Brits that do these races say. And I really missed riding and climbing in the Canadian Rockies and I haven't ridden at all in most of the other states than Colorado. So it would be an real adventure. You can spend you life tucked away in a room or a car which seem to me like sitting in a coffin waiting to die or you can go on adventures.

So I kept hinting and talking about it. Anne would look at me like I was crazy-her face turning all sorts of colors and I think I saw smoke coming out of her ears. She obviously wasn't into the idea. Finally I realized that she thought I may not make it back in one piece. You know, I think she still likes me or maybe she just needs the lawn mowed. Finally one day she just blurts out, "You're going to do this no matter what I think so just do it." Now that she has resigned herself to it she doesn't get so upset but I sure hope my spot tracker doesn't show me not moving in the middle of grizzly country off a cliff. These days most people wear GPS Spot trackers that using the Internet you can watch the progress of the racers as little blue or pink (in the case of Eszter) dots on a map. It can be quite addictive.

So what do I expect from the TD?  It is a long way. >2700 mi and ~200,000 feet of climbing on rough dirt roads. It is self supported so you carry all you need or buy it along the way in the little towns you go by. You can mail supplies to a post office. I want to ride >150 miles a day. I did almost 100mi/day in the Colorado trail race where you spent a good deal of time hiking. When looking at my speed I try to compare myself to others that have done it and I have ridden with. Jefe and Ethan. I can keep up with Ethan and Jefe on good days. The big variable with Jefe is that he isn't supper fast but he never sleeps. I need to cut back on the sleep. Ethan is fast. Jefe did it under 17 days (on a shortened course do to snow and flooding) with Ethan soon after. I would also like to keep ahead of Eszter. I think she will crush all the other girls that have done it. And if I can, and don't sleep so much, I should go pretty fast. I am really much faster on the roads than technical single track (not that I'm that slow....). A guy name Forest did it and went pretty well but on the Colorado Trail race he was way back and bailed so I don't know what to make of that. A guy I met at the Leadville 100 (Canon Shockley) from Leadville did it in ~20 days. We were pretty equal in the LT100. So if I can put in good miles every day I would then finish the 2700 miles in under 20 days. I would really like to go under 18 days.

I want to not freeze in Canada or Montana. I want to not cook in New Mexico. I want to be able to feel my hands and feet afterwards. I don't want to go into a diabetic coma in the wilderness (or anywhere else).

So now I just need to get a few odds and ends for the trip and come up with food ideas (my weak point) as it is self supported and you can't have people following you with food. You have to buy everything you need along the way in gas stations or in stores. 

I also want to try and raise $ for Type 1 diabetes research. Maybe we can cure it or even better prevent it. I think other diseases such as Crones, Lupus, and other autoimmune related diseases would all benefit from further research. 

More on the gear and raising $ later. Until next time keep your stick on the ice and rubber side down.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Into the VAPOR!

It's raining now. It was raining two weeks ago. One week ago a high pressure moved in and shoved the rain down to the four corners south west of here. One week ago the moon was full. One week ago the skies were clear and at 10pm 60 or so mountain bikers left from the bridge in downtown Salida for an 125mi mountain bike race that would climb 18,000 feet or so and follow many old rail road grades from the 1880's. Yes that's right the Vaportrail 125. Now you might wonder why it's called the "vapor trail." I imagine that it is because it follows the old trail of the narrow gauge steam locomotives for a while. Anne, my faster reading better half, said she read or was told by Tom Purvis at the aid station that it was because it climbs up close to the vapor trails in the skys (or Chem Trails as some crazies call them). OK I could go with that. You do go up to 12,600' on a gnarly carry-your-bike on your shoulder hike-a-bike in the early morning. And are above 11,000' for a good chunk of it.

a 3D map

On these longer rides you may ask yourself what exactly do you think about. Well sometimes I get songs stuck in my head. When I'm feeling good this might be get stuck on my head on fast downhills. Replace car with bike and highway with trail....

Sometimes on my lowpoints I may get the old song by "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar but sung by the George Steinbrener character on Seinfeld.

If I'm cruising up a long hill, then I get this song stuck sometimes but it just repeats, "Motoring.." as I don't know the words.

And if I'm getting a little out of i,t this may get stuck for a while...from the Who.

And if I'm cruising pretty fast maybe another by the Who.

So there ya go.

Dave Wiens had emailed that they could use some help at his aid station at Snowblind Campground at about 62miles in. Last year I came in at 6am after screaming down some single track in the dark. So I talked Anne into taking the kids up there and she could help. And then she could see some of the race. We drove over about 3pm and drove up to the campground. Jimmy Dirksen and Dave with Susan and the boys were up there marking the course and setting up camp. They have twin boys that are 11 and one older boy that is 13. Dave gave Susan and Jim a ride up Tomichi pass and they were to ride down Canyon creek trail and mark it. Anne and I stayed with all the kids. The boys were super good kids and played with Lila and Julian and they had a great time getting firewood and playing games. Becky was doing the race after moving to Steamboat for a new job and stopped by to give me a ride over to Salida.

Here is a video of the race that Chis Miller, husband of Eszter H, put up. You can see Becky as the smiling girl at the start. You can get an idea of the trail...

Vapor Trail 125 from chris miller on Vimeo.

 and more pictures a Mountainflyer;Vapor Trail 125

For the longest time I never knew Salida had a downtown as I would just either not go the 5 miles over there as I would stay on Hwy 285 or if I did I just stayed on the main highway/drag and completely missed it. Finally a few years ago I digressed and low and behold there is quite a bit over there. Probably the best bike shop on that side of Monarch pass, Absolute Bikes, is down by the river and actually connected to a cafe/bike shop, which is cool. They also have a great pizza/brewery called Amicas. Becky and I decided to try that out before the prerace meeting at 9. We got there and it was just too busy so we headed back to the cafe by the bike shop. I had some pasta special, some coffee and a cinnamon roll. We filled up and got our bikes stuff going and then went to the meeting. It was cool to see familiar faces. The Nuttelman twins. Always a force to be reckoned with. Eszter and her husband Chris. The Crested Butte guys, Jason Stubbe, Dan Loftus and Aaron Huckstep (and new CB mayor), Troy Hiatt from Gunni, John Fulton who had done the CTR with me and many others. I also met some new people.... One racer named Todd Kennedy came up after hearing me talking in the parking lot and said he had been reading my blog as his son who was 4? now had diabetes since something like a year old and wanted him to be able go on rides with him when he was older. I can't imagine having one of our kids with diabetes. It's one thing to get it in your 20s but as a baby.... Lila has two boys in her class of 80ish with type 1. If technology goes like it is now, I think we'll maybe figure it out in the next twenty years. So give to your favorite research group!

For more info on the course see my post from last year or the vapor trail web site. I decided to leave a meter with Anne at Snowblind at 60+ miles and one on Monarch pass at the aid station and carry my Dexcom continuous glucose meter. My sugar began to climb an hour before the race.

The picture below shows the whole enchilada. I took 5u of Humalog and 15 of Lantus at 8:30. I slipped 5u into my pack in a syringe.  A little into the race at the mellow pace my sugar was still rising but once we began to ride harder and the insulin began to kick in it dropped quickly. I also refrained from eating too much. At the first aide at 1am,  my stomach was starting to feel off. We had just ridden a good section of Colorado trail in the moon light and it was good. As we climbed up the long rail grade up to the Alpine Tunnel, I was having moments where I would feel good and then not so good. My energy began to wain. Looking back, I had my watch timer beeping every 40min to remind me to eat. This was working well along the earlier sections. But half way up to the alpine tunnel my blood sugars began to climb. With the Dexcom, I notice that at the high extremes it is very often much higher than it reads.

So I feel the high glucose in the middle was actually much higher. As we got close to the tunnel a few guys I was riding with, a single speeder from Durango, and Dan Loftus dropped me and I was feeling very cold and having a harder time. My legs began to feel tight and my energy was lacking. I had this feeling in a race at the Firecracker 50 in Breck where I was getting passed by fat guys..... I began to descend the tunnel and hopped in the train building that tourists can drive up to. I put on all my cloths. Both pairs of gloves, two pair of leg warmers and jackets. I was shivering uncontrollably coming down. Later people would talk that it was cold but they didn't have that much on. Looking back when your sugar is high, you can't use sugar for energy either. Like you've flooded the engine with too much gas versus running out of gas like low blood sugars--where you get cold also. As I climbed up Tomichi pass, I began to feel worse. I began to see lights catching me and passing me. At the top the Nuttelman Bros went by. I stopped and gave myself about 3 units from my stash in my pack. I'm always scared to give too much as you may tank with low sugar. From my Dexcom you can see it did start to drop but I continued to feel like my friend the Dentist when we did this ride and I would have to wait for him for extended periods..... I dropped down the pass and quickly hit the trail up Canyon Creek. The 900' hike/climb-a-bike. The only good thing was the moon was very nice. Clouds were blowing over the 12,600 peak we were climbing over past the moon. Last year I flew down here. This year I was flailing. I hit a rock and whacked my left knee. I then decided I had had enough. I was going to bail for the first time. I stopped at one point to take a look at the Dexcom and two bow hunters were standing right next to me in the dark. I left ASAP. I finally made it to Snowblind Aid a good 30 min slower than last year at 6:40am. I checked my sugar with my meter and it was 255. My Dexcom said 155. OK it dropped but not good enough. No wonder I felt like crap still. Anne was up feeding people sausages and Susan pancakes. Dave was mixing batter, signing number plates for spouses of riders, making coffee... Jim Dirksen was putting lube on chains and checking water bottles. He was very careful to ask if it was OK as I guess some guy chewed him out for putting Squirt lube on his chain. Thanks so much guys! Lila and two of the Wiens boys were up, Julian was up before I left. I was still shivering even sitting by the fire. I took 5 more units of Humalog and with Anne's positive energy I slowly decided to continue. I also ate some pancakes/sausage/pure maple syrup and coffee. I was getting passed by so many people as I sat and shivered for a good 50-60min I thought I would be way back in the pack. And I was. Dave just smiled and said "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't" Aint that the truth. I headed down the road still shivering but starting to go faster. By the time I got to Old Monarch pass a few miles later and started to head up, I had passed 2 guys. I passed 10-15 more at least by the top. I was going really fast now. And feeling really good. The sun was now beginning to come up pretty high. I had left my light at the aid station and now began to finally take off my leg and arm warmers. I got to the Aid station at Monarch pass with Chris M who was looking tired.

The high school mt bike team from Salida was running this aid. They were very enthusiastic. One guy would ask if I wanted coffee, yes I said, and out of the blue another brings a whole plate of bacon and eggs that I didn't ask for and no coffee. No biggie--big deal for them though.... I used the facilities in the store and got out after 10-15 minutes total. I was still feeling really good. I passed more guys on my way to Marshal pass. Here you drop down Starvation creek and climb back up to Marshall. I told the guys at that aid I'll get stuff on the way back. He said are you sure it's two hours. I said two hours ha!. I passed three more guys here at least as I screamed down the techy steep single track with Deep purple playing in the grey matter and climbed back up the steep road back up. The guys at the aid were surprised to see me and said I was probably the fasted to do the loop. Now most of the trail is down hill with a few steep little grunters and lots of really sharp rocks at the top. But mainly miles and miles of fun single track that almost makes you forget that you have been riding all night. I went as fast as possible but didn't push it too hard where I knew the worse danger of hitting rocks and getting a flat. I was passing fewer racers so I knew I must be closer to the front. I finally caught the Nuttelmans. One then the other. Even though I have to admit, Max, had broke his chain. I completely forgot my tool at the start so he had to wait for his brother. I passed many people just riding for fun from Gunni and Salida and they all cheered me on. I finally reached the highway and got the big wheels rolling really fast in my biggest gear. It's not that I was trying to race so hard here as to get to the finish and have a beer. I saw two bikers ahead and caught them just after the turn into Salida. One was a guy on a Superfly but with the new XX set up. Not as big of gears.. and he couldn't keep up. The other was the single speeder from Durango. He had complained as I rode with him way back on the way up Alpine tunnel that people wouldn't ride with him here and was a little bitter that they didn't pull him along. So I blasted past him also and he didn't look happy at all. I had a heavier bike than both of these guys as I had the bigger gears so I didn't really care, I had pushed them up all the hills, I get to use them all the way back down. Anyway I just wanted a beer really. So the finish looked so nice. I tied for 7th in 16:32 hrs. The guy behind me was close enough for the same time. The single speeder was a good 8 min back.... Maybe next yr I'll try a single speed.

Anne and the kids were hanging out in the grass with a beautiful day. We hung out for quite a while and headed for home. So much thanks to all the Salida guys for putting this on and the lady (Forgot her name) that got me a new bite valve for my camel back as we rode out of town! Puts Salida on the way cool places to live just behind Gunnison. One more fun fact. The guy that won crushed it but Anne said he didn't eat any food at the aid station. His wife met him and he ate canned peaches from a ziplock only.... I can see that as we just canned peaches from Paonia. Could be good. All for now sports fans! Oh almost forgot I made the Web version of the mountain flyer--one of my "life goals"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Colorado Trail Race "It's the final countdown!"--come on sing along!

This is the 4th and final part of my Colorado Trail Race Saga for part 1 click here for part 2 click here for part 3 click here.

I finally fell into a deeper sleep sometime in the night. It was chilly even in my 32F down bag at 11,700'. I had on my balaclava as I had lost my lighter hat. (Thanks Zach for finding it and carrying it all the way in and mailing it to me!) This was bad. It is pretty dense material so I couldn't hear my watch alarm at all and didn't get up until around 6:00am and got moving soon there after. I soon caught Jerry who had gotten up very early. Well at least I got some good rest... 8hrs-crazy. We rode somewhat together until the last few large climbs and then he caught me at the bottom of the last big hill at Apple the trail angel's camp. It was so nice to hang out in a comfortable chair and drink a coke and eat some chips. Apple hangs out there just before the trail crosses Hwy 114 and helps out CT travelers after the nasty section we just did. We both agreed he must have a story... I was thinking he is in the witness protection program. He looked kind of like he could have been in "Goodfellas". Super nice either way.  I grabbed a package of 6 mini Oreos (240 Calories) and tucked them into my pack. This would be my emergency food if I ran out.....

Trail hits section 18 at the highway. I had walked and ridden some of this doing trail maintenance with Martha Violett, a retired music professor from Western State College where I work. She and her husband Ted  (physics professor for 50yrs at WSC) had maintained this section of the trail for many years.  Since his death, a bunch of the science faculty have been helping her out. This section was fun to ride but I might have to go back and cut some branches back as they whacked me while riding but I hadn't noticed when hiking it. This is the last time I would see Jerry. I gave him the map I had printed out as he was confused about the next detour. He hadn't got a ton of sleep. The detour is a dirt road that has a couple of good climbs. I was making good time making the big wheels roll but it seemed to make me eat like crazy to keep my sugar levels up. I had to stop a few times to check it and eat more as it would drop into the 60 range... 

I did have some trail magic at the start of Los Pinos pass--the peak in the middle of the profile above.. Some Texans had taken up residence at a ranch. They were having a huge BBQ and offered me ribs or the like. It smelled quite good. I described the race and they didn't quite get that there were no set distances each day or places to stay. I told them I would take some water so one guy gave me some and brought out a banana and some prosciutto ham. I ran into some rain higher up and waited it out under a tree. Then the nasty looking storms all cleared and the mountains where I was heading looked perfect. 
Clouds clearing as I go over Los Pinos Pass
The road up to the highway where it goes over Slumgullion Pass above Lake City seemed to go on forever and I began contemplating going down to get more food as it was a difficult section to Silverton coming up. I also started to wonder how much energy gu I could get out of the empty packets in my backpack. You know you can never get it all out. Towards the top of the pass I finally caught up to Eszter. We talked for a minute and then I rode on up to the top and over to Spring creek pass where we hit single track again. I filled my water and was hanging out in the evening sun and she catches up. We chat and she pulls out some freeze dried food in a ziploc bag that she had added water to and put in her bra to heat up. She is way ahead of me and the guys in the food department. Hmmm I'm going to have to bring that next bike ride (The food not the bra that is.) I thought as I ate some crackers I had gotten out of Apple's food box that backpackers had left for others to to eat.

We start riding and I pulled ahead. I had ridden this section with some friends a couple of weeks earlier. Pre-riding this was huge as you are at high elevations 12-13,000', the trail has MANY passes that you have to go over and they can really get in your head if you don't know how many more you have to do. The sun set as we climbed higher. It was a very beautiful night. A partial moon. Clouds way off in the distance with flashes of lightening. Stars. Above tree line.... I rode to about 10 pm when I found the yurt. I checked it out and a couple of girls from Australia offered to let me sleep inside. It was kind of a mistake as it wasn't all that warm, I didn't want to wake them at 3 am, and I wasn't super tired and could have ridden on. After sitting for a minute, I decided to crash there. 
Stats for the day: 95mi, 10500'. Hmm I just noticed I seemed to ride just about 95 miles each day....

I woke up not so early again going around 6. Eszter, of course, got up over two hours earlier and was ahead. I got to recognize her tread pattern pretty well. This section of trail like I said is very beautiful but very hard. You climb up to 13,200' and have to hike up some really steep passes. From the profile below you can see there are MANY passes. 

Looking south at cloud in valleys

One of the many high passes

Flowers and Mountains
About half way through this high alpine section, I passed John, who I had seen on Monarch Crest. He must not have slept much and wasn't moving fast. He also had some issue with his single speed bike. That's weird. 

I knew I had several more passes but remembered when I was getting close to Stoney pass where you take a jeep road down steeply to Silverton. On the last corner, we hit sheep poo as they were grazing on the grass. As I rode Stoney pass, a storm was passing over Silverton and I headed down. And low and behold, it's Eszter again as I was going down faster. We cruised into town together and had lunch at a cafe at 2pm. I had $35 worth of food. Smoothie, ham and cheese grilled sandwich, large cookie, breakfast burrito (and one burrito to go). We had a great lunch.  I called my family and they said Cat was just 20 miles back. OK they are really slow miles but Eszter got a look like she had to get going as she started saying how hard Cat rides. She then went and checked on a guy's computer who was surfing the web.  After lunch, she headed off to the store for more batteries for her spot and what not. I had a package at the post office so I went for that. I had spare shorts, shirt, tools, food, etc. I change, grab food, and mail some stuff back to Gunni. I decided to go light. I got rid of my front handlebar pack, some of my clothes, my sleeping pad, my down jacket, my small light and one spare tube. I headed up Molas pass at 3pm.

Here is a tally of all the food I ate after lunch on the final push to Durango from the wrappers left in my pack..... 
Powerbars 5 banana @240 Cal
Gu or power gels 11@100-110 Cal
Probars 2@270 Cal
Fruit bar 1@180 Cal
Granola bar 1 @180 Cal
Breakfast burrito from Silverton ~300? Cal

For a grand total of about 3800 Cal. Hmm not a huge amount.... But it was a lot of wrappers.

I made it up Molas pass in about 55 minutes even with my blood sugar tanking--I couldn't seem to get it up above 60. 80 is "normal" but I like to have it higher. I ate 2 gu's and a powerbar on the climb. 
So you're probably wondering, "does this guy really have diabetes" as I haven't really talked about it much. I cut back on my insulin considerably. I hadn't taken hardly any Humalog quick acting insulin. I did take 3 units with my big lunch but probably could have done 1. I also had taken much less Lantus at night and added a bit more in the morning. There is nothing worse than not being able to wake up when you're in the woods alone, under a tree and off the trail..... After the first day I cut my Lantus from a normal of 15 to 5 at night and 3-4 in the morning. And decreased it from there.

The trail here after Molas is more geared for biking and is great trail. I hated to ride it in the night. I didn't plan on stopping much for the night as I was getting burned out on the hiking and even the single track. My body was actually feeling pretty good. The balls of my feet were a bit sore and my throat had been getting more and more sore and I seemed to be getting some sores on the roof of my mouth. 

These flowers are handle bar high...

 The  sunset was great. After dark, I began to have a hard time riding as my bike seemed to swerve all over the place and the trail was often on the side of a steep hill. In these areas you could see the uphill side but just a black abyss on the downhill/cliff side. I stopped and once again my sugar was low. I stopped and ate my burrito and a bar and watched the stars for a while. I also was getting a little gripped as in 1988 I had crashed on junction creek and had to ride out for 15 mi to get 30 stitches in my knee and shin. And I guess I missed Anne and the kids and thought she was very worried about me falling off a cliff where they wouldn't find me for a long time. So it was slower going for a while. I finally came around after the big climb after Bolam pass. I rode until about 12:30am and found a nice spot under tree to take a nap. I took just 3 unit of Lantus. I was sleeping lightly and saw Eszter go by......

I slept for a couple of hours and was riding again at 2:30am. My sugar was 300 but quickly dropped to 60 when I got lost an hour later. The trail here goes across a road a bunch or hits the road  and then soon after goes back to trail. I made all the junctions until about 3:30am when I missed one and thought I saw a marker on the road. I didn't remember the trail following the road but I couldn't really say as once again my sugar was low and I hadn't had a ton of sleep. I kept stopping to see if I could see E's tracks but the road was packed to well. I finally decided to go for 5 more minutes and if I didn't see a marker to turn around. I couldn't see the stars to tell my direction either as the trees were too thick. So I finally turned around and got back on the trail. Here you can see my bumbling...

My 1:30 delay.....
 I got back on the trail and sure enough there were E's tracks. I caught her again in a bit before sunrise. Sunrise was very nice also as the sky was red and the mountains were silhouetted. She was looking pretty tired as her normally chipper crackling voice was not as chipper. We got to the final pain in the butt climb (big climbs up steep loose sliderock) before Kennebec and the mountains to the west, where I grew up climbing and biking, began to lighten with the rising sun. Really nice. I gotta bring a digital camera if I do this again. As I can hike a bit faster I dropped E again. I dropped down to the lake just before Kennebeck and then up to the trail head and parking lot 26 mile from the finish and mostly down.

I ran into a couple of bike packers and talked to them for a while. I took off my back wheel to check out my back brakes before the downhill. My freewheel/wheel had been making weird sounds for a few days but I knew I couldn't fix anything there. It was making a whirly chirping sound when the wheel turned like a crazy bird and when I peddled after coasting would make a thunk-thunk sound. I would soon find out what was wrong. I decided to put my other set of brake pads on and when I grabbed my back wheel to put it back on something wasn't right. Only half of the pieces were there. The cog set was still on the axle had broken sometime. Below is a reenactment of what it looked like. 

Calm as always I carefully slipped the pieces back together and put it back on my bike.

I figured if my skewer could hold it that far, it would probably hold for another 20 miles. And down the trail I went.... The trail was nice with the classic water falls. About half way down, I got paranoid that I had missed a turn. I didn't remember so much climbing in the middle. Crazy what happens after making some wrong turns and not much sleep.  So I rode back down the climb and there was E coming up. I said, "so this is the right trail?" she was a bit confused why I would be coming back and said yes it showed up on her GPS. I then turned around and rode about as fast I could the rest of the way back to the end of the trail..... I finished in 5 days 5hrs and 15min or so. E arrived soon after. Stats for this day: 115mi almost 18,000' climbing and almost 2 hrs of sleep.

 I found Anne, and the kids, and Grandma and Grandpa. I sat down and ate a bunch of cantaloupe and good ol' Zach had been by to pick up some stuff and left E and I a PBR beer. I found my stash of Oreos that I got from Apple, the trail angel, and split them with E. We all then went to Carvers for some lunch. E talked them into giving us a beer.  She is a force of nature.....

I came in 4th and E a close 5th out of 70ish. For more info with maps go to: and

Immediately after stopping for a while, my ankles began to swell up--Kankles I think they call them. My mouth was sore.  However, I didn't really smell at all.

The next day we drove back to Gunnison. We saw that Becky was about to hit Silverton so we stopped and looked for her. Little did we know that she had thrown in the towel. As she was looking for a phone, she saw our car and then ran into us. We got her some of Anne's clothes and put her bike in the car and gave her a ride back as well. Sitting between a 4 and 8 year old may have been almost as bad as riding the rest of the way to Durango. We had a bbq with some of the CTR racers later in the week, E, Becky, Jordan, Chris. Until next year?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Colorado Trail Race Day 3.

This is Part 3 of several long posts of my Colorado Trail Race Adventure. 
For Part 1 preview go here.
For Part 2 Days 1 and 2 go here.
For Part 4 go here.

Day 3 Bonus..... Route navigation! I thought I'd take a moment to talk about the signs you use to follow the trail, when its marked....

Most of the time the trail is marked at an intersection with a sign like the following on a tree or sign 20m or so down the fork of the trail that you are supposed to take. So it is key to watch for intersections and then search for the marker, especially at night. They are easy to miss in the dark.
Much of the time two or more trails were on the same route you would get a marker like this,
Even better you might get a sign like this that can't have the marker torn off. Many of them seem to have gone missing off the tree or post. It seems that the higher in the tree a marker may be the more likely it will still be there. Much of the trail past Molas pass later on was "marked" by posts like this one with out any mark on it at all.

 Markers like this one were prevalent at copper mt.
 Many of the markers were on the flexible posts like this. Many times the sticker was missing or the post was broken in half.
 The best was an actual sign.
And much of the time the trail was marked by large piles of rocks or cairns in the high country...... So there ya go.

My Day 3. I was out the hotel door and riding up towards Cottonwood pass by 4am. I reached the Colorado Trail and hit it in the dark. The trail after this had me a bit worried. You have to cover a lot of very remote and rough trail with out any towns until Silverton, which isn't very big. And then I noticed that I was having a hard time riding through a rocky section. Sure enough low blood sugar. I have a Dexcom 7 continous glucose meter but didn't bring it as I didn't think the batteries would last and sometimes it just doesn't work well. So I had a glucose meter in my pack. The time to check wasn't too bad unless I did it a lot. (foreshadowing hint hint). Hmm I sure hope I have enough food to get me to Silverton.....

Some single track.
After a little while, I caught Jerry from the store the day before. We said hi and I rode on ahead. A few miles further, a baby owl was right in the middle of the trail. I stopped and picked him up and set her on a rock. There he is--camera didn't work for some reason.
I went to get back on my bike and my front wheel wouldn't turn......I looked it over and sure enough my break pads had worn too thin and the metal spring was stuck in my rotors. OK I'll pop my spare pair in. I got out my multitool and what??? It doesn't have a 2.5mm allen! and then I look in my bag and no spare brake pads. Houston we have a problem. As I'm thinking of ways to file one of my other tools down with a rock and get the metal part removed along comes Jerry. And low and behold he has a tool kit with the right size allen wrench. I got my wheel rolling without the spring. No way was I going to ride all the way to Silverton with out good brakes so I rode just a little bit further to just above Princeton Hot Springs and rode the road back to Buena Vista. I got to the bike shop pretty quickly. It was closed until 9 and it was 8. I ran into Cat again at the bike shop and I helped her get a hose set up and we sprayed off our bikes. She was waiting for the post office for a package. I went to a restaurant a couple of buildings down and grabbed an omelet and pancakes. I also called the MTB cast and wished Anne a happy birthday.... I had also been on a long ride on Mother's day. Isn't she the best. Finally the shop opened and I bought two pairs of pads and put in the new pair in the front. And I was off. I made it back to the hot springs 3 hrs after I left to come to town. It also put 17+ miles and about 700' of climbing on my ride.Here is the profile of my day without the detour.....
 And the route with the detour
The next section I had ridden at night in the opposite direction during the Vapor Trail race the year before. It had a gnarly climb and then some good single track. Getting closer to highway 50 that goes over monarch pass I passed some other CTR's at a raspberry patch so I stopped and ate some. There was several piles of bear scat in this area.... I passed them and after what seemed a long time finally arrived at the highway. It had rained just before I got there and I just got a little of it as I started riding up Fooses Creek. I met many hikers along here that had counted racers and put me in 6-8th place. They were all friendly. 
Common bridge. I wonder if I could ride this?
The flowers on the whole ride were crazy.

Picture doesn't capture the flowers.....
 As I pushed the bike up the last very steep pitch of Fooses and onto the long awaited Crest Trail, I saw Jerry going over the top. I caught up to him at the small shelter a couple of miles down the trail where John from City Market the night before is laying in his sleeping bag and getting ready for a nap. We chat for a minute and he says another rider is just ahead. It is windy and starting to sprinkle. Jerry and I decide to head on. The storm passes and it gets warmer as we ride. I enjoy the Crest while I can before we hit the next section. I rode with Jerry until the trail starts to climb again after the Silver creek junction. 

Having fun on the Crest

And the sun began to set.....

It was dark. The coyotes howled--not yipping like the normal unpossessed variety. My huge front wheel darted back and forth through large white rocks trying to find passage like lovers' tongues. The darkness was pervasive.  The large eyes of  bovine in the middle of the trail shone unmoving until the light from my headlamp created shadows that spooked them off. The partial moon dropped behind the ridge. And the rocks and roots continued....... unrelenting. I ran into Jerry later and he saw a mountain lion in the middle of the trail here.....
Representative sample of the next 25 miles.
 I had ridden much of this awful trail earlier in the summer and it just sucks in my opinion. And most everyone else's opinion. I was just glad I had 29" wheels. I saw a light a few hundred yards ahead. Who could that be? I finally started to get a bit tired right at the top of Sergent Mesa so I laid down between some trees with my rain tarp at 10pm. The coyotes began howling again and made my dreams crazy.  It started to sprinkle. 

The day had gone OK....not quite as far as I'd liked with the mechanical but.. Vital stats: about 92 miles and 13,700' with ride back to BV. Tomorrow would be another day.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Colorado Trail Race Day 1 and 2

This is Part 2 of several long posts of my Colorado Trail Race Adventure. 
For Part 1 The race preview go here.
For Part 3 Day 3 go here
For Part 4 the final countdown go here

Before we get started with the advanced topics of the Colorado Trail Race, I think you should have some background information and general things I found after completing the race. Some interesting fun facts if you will. So here they are....

Types of animal feces encountered and ridden through followed by type, starting with the domesticated varieties:
  • Cow;  runny diarrhea-ish, cow pie-hard and soft.
  • Horse; large piles and small apples
  • Sheep; small and large. More slippery than the runny cow. Also stinkiest.
  • Dog
Wild animal
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Moose (not verified but I saw one next to the trail)
  • Bear (red piles by red berries, black piles other places)
  • Coyote
  • Pika
  • Marmot
The number of times I got off my bike to push up a hill;
5000? maybe more?

My toes and fingers are still numb one week after finishing.

The trail is marked well unless it isn't.

The Spot trackers make a great tool for fans/family to follow racers and can keep mothers up at night worrying when you take a wrong turn at 4am.

And finally a quote from Virginia Reed of the Donner party,
"Remember, if you come this way, don't take no shortcuts and hurry along as fast as you can." (Virginia Reed, Age 12, Donner Party Survivor, 1847)

The following is my recounting of Day 1 of my CTR adventure. 

The sun had been beating down too long as I stopped to get water from the stream. Somehow I was out in front after the huge climb and descent over Georgia pass. However, the cramps in my legs had taken their toll. Groin in right at first, hamstring in left, quads in both legs, other groin and hamstring, repeat. I had taken all my salt tablets and stopped to get various drinks at Bailey but I still felt like I was out of balance. Ouch, my groin cramps again and then Ethan goes by with just a glance and up the hill never looking back.We now had the 1000' or so climb up to get to the highway between Breckenridge and Frisco. 

At the start

The day had started innocent enough. We had started as a pretty large group of racers from Indian Creek Trail Head just south of Denver and had met up with the Colorado Trail at the South Platte. The trail was fun with some hike a bike sections and some fun single track. I passed Eszter H as she didn't have her burrito cinched down and she lost it on the trail out of her pack. I would see her on the trail much later. It didn't seem hot at first but by the time I got to Bailey at about mile 50 at high noon my leg muscles had all gone through a series of cramps many times and they were sore.  I needed some more salty goodness in Bailey. The gas station/store in Bailey was closed (WTF??) so I went back a block to a small ice cream/tourist shop and picked up a couple of bottles of orange juice. I had taken some salt tablets and the cramps had let up some. 
I still wasn't feeling super great so at the next store in Grant a few miles up the road (Grant Country Store-open 7 days a week by the way) I stopped and picked up some chips and chocolate milk. My cramps subsided a bit and I headed out to climb the highway up to Kenosha pass.

Elevation profile up to camp 1.
Here is the elevation profile of my Day one.A little over 95 miles and ~14,600' of climbing. Below is a map with some notes.

Day 1 route. Note Detour in yellow.
On the highway, I started riding with a guy named Zach Guy and his buddy. It seems everyone in the race knows Zach. Anyway he was pretty cool dude as I found out he had read my blog about what to bring. The highway had a narrow shoulder for several miles and wasn't great with the traffic. I did notice a pair of red women's panties on the side of the road. This would be interesting as later I would see another pair on Molas pass. Someone with a mountain pass fetish perhaps? Another guy with a name I forgot rode with us to the top of the pass. I turned onto the trail at the top of the pass and saw Kevin Thomas having a snack. He was very strong and on a single speed. I rode over to the campground and grabbed some water. Zach and pal came along and took this picture. 
Getting water at Kenosha pass
 The trail here was pretty good single track for a while. I passed a family where everyone had the most interesting teeth. Even the "mother" and "father" and son and uncle?. They kind of looked like this:
The trail began to climb up Georgia pass and got really rocky and rooty. My first taste of extended hike-a-bike. I passed quite a few people on the climb. First Kerkove who had a really funny look/grimace on his face. Then Ethan Passant and a couple others. Ethan said he and others were also suffering from cramps. He had just finished the Tour Divide a few weeks earlier so I was surprised that he could still walk, to tell the truth. A storm was threatening so I pushed hard over the top.
Georgia Pass
I let it rip down the other side. The Superfly was really flying. There were quite a few downed trees that stopped the flow but it was nice mostly. Now I stopped to get some water at the bottom. My groins kept cramping as I tried to swirl my Steripen ultraviolet light water sterilizer in my bottle. And Ethan goes by. I get up and eat some of the trail mix that Becky gave me before the race. Now I had completely forgotten that we had a climb over 1000' to go over to get to the highway and the next section. I began to follow Ethan up the long climb. I came around a corner and across the road to the trail and a forest service guy pulls up and says he's closing the trail. It's 5ish and I had already gone up the trail a little ways. I said "OK that's odd I wonder what the other racers are going to do..." He said, "You know it's not a sanctioned event so you're going to have problems." I found out later that some took a very easy detour (CTR rules say not to break the law, see yellow line in map showing approx detour) and others just rode the trail anyway. The bark beetle had really hit this area hard so they were cutting down all the dead trees. The trail all the way to the highway was a huge clear cut. They had closed the trail for the lumber dudes to work. This section really was putting the hurt on me after riding all day and my body not having the right electrolyte balance. I reached the highway and ran into several other guys. They started up the trail. I began to shiver and feel nauseous. OK I guess I had better stop for the day. It was only 7ish. I trudged up the trail a little ways and found a nice soft spot between some trees and laid down and went to sleep. I went in and out of sleep and saw several people pass by. I woke up very early and was riding at around 2 am up the next pass--Gold Hill.
Stats for the day. 95+ miles 14,659' of climbing. 6+ hrs of horizontal time.

Day 2 of CTR
The trail here climbs steeply and becomes a hike after a few miles. I passed many sleeping racers and around 3am saw a girl getting up. I asked her name as there were only a few girls racing. It was Cat. 

After a few miles, you push up the very steep trail to where you think you will drop down the other side. NOT. You keep climbing up and up and up. Foggy clouds began to form as the wind came up over the high ridge at 12,500' and the air began to cool considerably around 4am. The trail on top of the ridge was difficult to see in the fog. I hit a rock and fell off my bike. I heard as pssss....... Oh crap. This is the worst time and place for a flat. I quickly looked at my front tire but the sound was just the grass rubbing against the tire. Phew! The descent wasn't great either. I gracefully stepped across a creek and put my right foot in it. A little later I put my left foot in. I hate riding with wet feet! I finally got to Copper Mt. As I hit the trail at the base of the ski area, I again ran into Zach and his buddy. I also saw others sleeping here and there. The trail climbs along the ski area and eventually up a valley to Searle pass and then over to Kokomo pass. 
Looking down from Searle pass the way I had come
Looking up to top of Searle pass. Note Ptamigan in foreground if you can.
Climbing up Searle pass I noticed several backpackers. It was interesting to see the different types of people who were hiking. The first parts of the trail near Denver they were mainly middle aged to older men. Here several single women were on the trail. They had dogs to protect them from the men on the first part I presume. 

As seen in the above picture, I saw so many ptarmigan on the top of the pass that you could throw your bike in any direction and hit one for dinner. 
Route for Day 2.
Kokomo pass?
The trail descends down to Camp Hale and old WWII winter training camp. I didn't stop to check it out. Here's a pic I found on the web.
There was some great single track and it is a deceptively long way to Tennessee pass. Finally you hit the highway to 
Leadville... And what do I do? I printed a map for this detour and I'm like, "I don't need to look, Oh yeah take a left" after climbing the highway I see the Tennesse pass Nordic center that I had seen a while ago. Errrrggg!!! Take a right!! So on down the highway to Leadville. I stop and get a bunch of food at Subway and wash up in the bathroom. Sorry about the mess.... I also stop a the bike store to see where everyone else is at. I'm in 7th or 8th place and Eszter had just blown by while I was relaxing at lunch watching a storm blow by! That girl is hard core. So I grab some Honeystinger products and out the door I go. I find the trail head past Halfmoon creek campground after some looking--this is one of those spots where it's not marked well. The trail climbs steeply and then you get some great single track before dropping down to Twin Lakes. You climb up again after going around the lake and get some more fun riding before dropping down to the detour to Buena Vista at Clear Creek Reservoir. As I dropped down, it began to rain and by the time I got to BV around 8pm, I was pretty wet. I felt OK but didn't want to get too tired and have to sleep in the woods in the rain so I grabbed a bunch of food at City Market. The next food supply would be at Silverton A LONG WAY AWAY. I thought I had a ton of food anyway. I ran into John and Jerry, two other racers, at City Market and grabbed a cheap motel next door. I got my clothes cleaned up and sort of dry by the time I woke up at 3:30am and got going around 4:00am the next day.
Day 2 Stats. 100mi, 11,700' climbing. Horizontal time 5.5+ hrs. My legs hadn't cramped at the high cool elevations but were sore here and there but feeling better all the time. The hikers after Leadville and to Buena Vista seemed to be more families hiking......Even a guy that was a huge WSC bike team fan.

Day 3. Prelude

It was dark. The coyotes howled--not yipping like the normal unpossessed variety. His huge front tire darted back and forth through large white rocks trying to find passage like lovers' tongues. The darkness was pervasive.  The large eyes of  bovine in the middle of the trail shone unmoving until the light from my headlamp created shadows that spooked them off. The partial moon dropped behind the ridge. And the rocks and roots continued....... unrelenting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Colorado Trail Race Part :1 Preview

This is Part 1 of several long posts of my Colorado Trail Race Adventure. 
For Part 2 Days 1 and 2 go here.
For Part 3 Day 3 go here.
For Part 4 go here.

OK so here's the deal..... I took along a cheap camera from the store and this silly thing had this stuff called film in it. This film apparently can't be attached to a computer with a USB or anything. So I won't have any of my glorious pictures until I get it "developed" and "digitized". So until then I will give you some "hooks" and a lead up to the "race." Here are some pictures at Mt Flyer and here is Eszter H's page in the meantime.

Just in case you're still not familiar with the Colorado Trail Race it is pretty easy--walk in the woods, as stroll in the park, a day at the zoo, a cakewalk...... You basically see how fast you can ride the 480 miles or so of trail from Denver to Durango with some short sections of road thrown in to get you around wilderness areas with around 60,000' of climbing. You carry what you need and can buy supplies in towns or send a package to a post office. You can't have a friend meet you with supplies or have a supply drop. The trail/route passes through a few towns. Bailey, Near Frisco, Copper Mountain resort, Leadville, Buena Vista, and Silverton. Leadville and Buena Vista are the only larger towns with bike shops. The trail has a ridiculous amount of climbing and hike-a-bike (pushing your loaded bike up steep hills at high altitude) involved. More here.

Getting ready:
OK so thought about the gear list on my previous post and whittled it down. I still opted to take the LOTR hardback trilogy.... Other than that I took a light down sleeping bag, thermarest Neoair pad, emergency bivy/groundcloth, light tarp tent, wool shirt, socks 2pr, head lamp, handle bar light, food, rain jacket and pants, vest, arm and leg warmers, rain gloves, light down jacket, 2 tubes, 1st aid kit, bike fix it kit, steripen for water, 1 pr bike shorts and jersey (I mailed a spare set to Silverton), insulin (Humalog and Lantus), test kit and my secret weapon below--a shower cap from the Sheraton in St George UT. Here are some pics of the staging area. 

Measuring my girth for a possible bivy sack.

Part 1. To the race!

On the forum site a guy named Andy said he did the race last year but couldn't do it this year and had space available at his house AND he would feed us that night AND feed us in the morning AND he would take us to the race start at 5 am. Taking my chances that he wasn't just a crazy guy that was going to kill me and steal my bike I sent him a message and got his address up for Sunday night before the race. Our pal Becky was also doing the race and was going to a wedding Saturday night in Estes. So I got a ride to Boulder with her and her boy friend and spent he afternoon cruising the Boulder Creek path and Pearl Street. That night I hung with a friend from graduate school and the next day Becky picked me up and took me back to Andy's house close to where she was staying. Here is a picture of Andy (right) and two other racers. There were 5 racers total.

Andy's wife Sandy and her dog.
I have to say that these were the nicest people and it was better than many bed and breakfasts that I have stayed at. They had all the stuff needed to work on the bikes, great food, great beds, stories and pictures from last year. Super pre-race set up. So Thanks Again Andy and Sandy!!
We got up early at 4:15 for the 6:30 start that was 30-40 drive away. Sandy made us a great breakfast, we loaded the bikes and got headed out. At the start there were people milling about. I saw many people that I knew: Becky, Max Nuttleman, Kerkove, Jordan Carr, Ethan, Jeffe... We all got our bikes ready, got SPOT trackers etc. The atmosphere was fun and tense almost at the same time. Stefan who thought this up, gave a speech to be respectful and all. Then we broke into groups, those who thought 5 days was possible when first and so forth. Many people started right away.....

Here is team Rock and Roll.

Becky and I.
And off we went! Oops watch out for the guy in front of me with the large camera! OK all's good.......

Book 2 teaser:
"The sun had been beating down too long as I stopped to get water from the stream. Somehow I was out in front after the huge climb and descent. However the cramps in my legs had taken their toll. Groin in right at first, hamstring in left, quads in both legs, other groin and hamstring, repeat. I had taken all my salt tablets and stopped to get various drinks at Bailey but I still felt like I was out of balance. Ouch my groin cramps and then Ethan goes by with just a glance and up the hill never looking back."